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Eli’s Strongest Skills

There are many attributes of a good to great quarterback.  We hear about today’s elite quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady having great accuracy, arms strength, ability to read defenses, decision-making and leadership.  But there are other intangibles that are terribly difficult to quantify in the combine, much less individual workouts.  Two of these attributes Eli Manning has begun to demonstrate a mastery of: pocket presence and poise. 

One of those attributes, pocket presence, is basically the ability to evade the rush while reading his progressions.  Many good quarterbacks have many quantifiable attributes but lack “feel of the pocket.”  Think Jay Cutler or even Michael Vick.

The other is ‘courage/poise” or in layman’s terms, not buckling under pressure and knowing how to win.  Ernie Accorsi wrote in his scouting report back in 2004 the following:

He has enough athletic ability to get out of trouble.  But he has a feel for the pocket. Feels the rush.  Most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic. As [former Baltimore Colts defensive back] Bobby Boyd told me once about Unitas, “Two things set him apart: his left testicle and his right testicle.”… Peyton had much better talent around him at Tennessee. But I honestly give this guy a chance to be better than his brother. Eli doesn’t get much help from the coaching staff. Eli had to carry his team on his back. These guys are rare, you know.

Since 2007 Eli has the most combined 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives with 20 (He set the record this past season with 8).  Those behind him are Peyton with 18, Brees with 18, Big Ben with 16, Ryan with 16, Rivers with 12 and Brady with 11.  I am sure Eli would rather let Drew Brees take home all the individual records while he continues his quest of compiling statistics to show how he wins when it counts.

Two weeks ago we wrote about the issues at the tackle position for the Giants’ offensive line.  Diehl ranked dead last in the league in pass blocking efficiency (he also ranked dead last at guard as well) with McKenzie finishing only 6 spots better and Beatty ranking 50 out of 75 tackles in a study by Pro Football Focus.  Given these individual numbers the Giants’ offensive line finished dead last in terms of pass blocking efficiency with a rating of -99.2 (run blocking they were rated 29th in the league).  Yet we need to take into account the added pressure on the offensive line by the play calling.  Eli led the league with 109 deep ball passes versus an average of 72 in another study by Pro Football Focus.  As a result of these numbers, Eli was under duress 244 times out of 627 times he dropped back to pass with the next highest total for the league, 208, by the Panthers.  Therefore, Eli was under pressure 39% of the time.  You would expect a quarterback to become very average from this amount of pressure.  But remarkably, Eli led the league in accuracy under pressure with a 69.4% accuracy rating.  The next highest was Brees with a 69.2% accuracy rating who conversely was pressured on just 25% of his drop backs versus Eli’s 39%.  Let us also take in to consideration that Brees is a timing and rhythm passer who relies more on short to intermediate throws.

Before the beginning of the 2011 season we heard Coughlin preach about how Eli needs to make better decisions with the ball to avoid the elevated interception ratio he achieved in 2010.  In 2011, under duress Eli threw the ball away 25 times versus the league average of 14.  This was a big improvement from last year, when he threw it away just 12 times under pressure and achieved a 57% accuracy ratio.

Don’t be surprised if, in the words of Jerry Reese, “there will be change this time” again. That change was the waiver of Shaun O’Hara and Richie Seubert last year.  David Diehl almost never misses any starts, and that alone makes him a favorite of the coaches.  Just expect there to be turnover on the OL, with plenty of jobs up for grabs.

Eli’s poise and pocket presence enabled him to be a much more effective QB than the passing and pass blocking statistics would otherwise indicate.  The NY Giants QB has become elite by evading the rush, throwing the ball away, taking more sacks instead of interceptions, and still managing to go deeper down the field.  In short, Eli is elite because he has put together all of the intangibles.